Nashville Ambient Ensemble
Dubbed a part of the experimental music scene in Nashville known as the “New Weird South” (hat-tip to Greil Marcus, of course), the Nashville Ambient Ensemble is made up of Michael Hix (composer, electronics), Cynthia Cardenas, guitarist, Timon Kaple (guitar), Deli Paloma-Sisk (guitar, electronics, vocalist), Kim Rueger aka Belly Full of Stars (synths, piano, vocals), Jack Silverman (guitar) and Luke Schneider, pedal steel maestro, who’s wholly remarkable debut record, Altar of Harmony came out in 2020, and together they have created a work of art that is ambient, slowcore, thematic and utterly beautiful.
Made up of six numbers, the Cerulean has its roots, of course, in the work of Brian Eno, with lush soundscapes that have the ability to transform a listener. At moments guitars form a underlaying cushion of tones, with Schneider’s loping, majestic pedal steel casting a spellbinding aura. Whatever vocals are on these songs are used more as a presence then as a singer – think of Elizabeth Fraser in the Cocteau Twins – in fact, if this came out 30 years ago, it would have been a natural for the 4AD label.
It is impossible to highlight any individual song or moment, the work has to be experienced in full. Like the best ambient works, this is not passive, musical wallpaper but instead a rich, evocative set of pieces that sound completely new with each listen. One of the most compelling, engaging albums in recent memory. Long live the freaks of Nashville, you create beauty in a world sorely lacking in such.
Listen to “Elegy” here: